In looking at adoption of the Firefox Do Not Track (DNT) setting over the past two months, more than three times as many of our users have turned on DNT in Firefox Mobile than on desktop versions of Firefox.* The percentage is just over 17% on Firefox Mobile, compared with 5.6% on Firefox.
We don’t know the exact reason behind the higher adoption rate for DNT of our users in Firefox Mobile. It may be that people seeking alternative browsers to the default ones on Android devices are more technically savvy and likely to tweak settings than other users. Or it may reflect that the settings UI is stripped down with all the settings appearing on one pane, versus multiple tabs within the desktop preferences window. It could also be that people have increased concerns over privacy and tracking on mobile devices.
By way of background, Firefox Mobile is the only mobile browser that includes DNT today. We implemented the same Do Not Track privacy setting in Firefox Mobile for Android that became available to our desktop users at the beginning of the year. Firefox Mobile users enable the DNT setting in the settings pane and flipping on the “tell sites not to track me” switch. Once on, the mobile browser sends an HTTP header that reads DNT:1 to all first and third parties involved in any particular session.
With users increasingly browsing the web on mobile devices, we need to ensure that any DNT system works in browsers on both desktop and mobile devices, as well as on mobile apps used to access content, services and games on the Internet. It’s important to point out that DNT on a mobile browser doesn’t control how other apps installed on a device operate. This is an area where DNT still needs much more thought, otherwise we create a privacy system that is incomplete and doesn’t fully reflect the ways in which we access the Internet today. I’m also concerned about app-level DNT settings, should they emerge, where users end up having to enable and re-enable DNT from app to app. Perhaps DNT should be an OS-level setting. More work within the mobile industry is definitely required here.
*We don’t track users to determine these percentages. These stats reflect aggregate counts that we generate from recording the daily numbers of HTTP headers we receive that include DNT. Any well trafficked site can record these stats, including being able to also count the number of users with DNT enabled via Safari and IE9.